Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) started rolling out homepage takeover ads this past weekend for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as the it and the other major portals are working to line up marketers for these “premium” ad slots. The move comes as Macquerie analyst Ben Schachter’s latest report monitoring the portals’ homepage ad progress shows Yahoo having a bit of a slow start in Q2.
Schachter detected a noticeable decline in the quality of ads on Yahoo’s homepage during the first half of the quarter. At 8 percent, Yahoo had the lowest proportion of oversized/custom ad units during the period amongst the four sites we analyzed (down substantially from 22 percent in Q1. Instead, Yahoo had the highest proportion of lower-priced “non-rich Media ads” during the period. At the same time, AOL, which launched its Project Devil homepage takeover ads effort more fully in Q2, had the highest amount of the larger ad units at 32 percent, Schachter reported.
While Yahoo hasn’t presented its takeover ads as part of an overhaul of its display sales strategy, it hasn’t really needed to. After all, it’s display sales have consistently risen double digits every quarter last year, most recently gaining 10 percent in Q1, as AOL is only just experiencing a turnaround from three years of decline. Furthermore, as Schachter pointed out, Yahoo saw a solid uptick in sales of its “Login” page, which he believes was sold 40 percent of the days during the first half of this quarter, a significant jump from 24 percent during the same time in Q1.
While the latest installment in the Pirates series is just being released, Disney’s campaign with Yahoo has stretched back to December. That initial phase of included a dedicated page for the film on the Yahoo Movies channel. It also linked the banner ads with e-mail and online radio spots to promote a sweepstakes and the first trailer.
Given Yahoo’s continued growth in display ads sales, it’s so far resisted the pressure to be more aggressive with its homepage takeovers when compared to AOL (NYSE: AOL). But as AOL has returned to positive growth, Yahoo will have to battle it out with AOL and the other portals, along with with other publishers, to grab the attention of the movie studios. Although summer is a crucial time for the studios, challenges from online and DVRs amid a weak economy suggest that budgets won’t be what they once were. As such, websites looking for large ad spending by the studios may find more of a struggle to bring in more of those movie dollars.